Saturday, December 15, 2007

Merry Christmas

This picture of Scott admiring a gigantic cactus reminded me that the spirit and colors of Christmas can be found everywhere at this time of year - even in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert. We wish each of our family and friends a holiday season just as rosy as this cactus, but not nearly as thorny!

Merry Chihuahuan Christmas to you all!

Stanley and Dona

Friday, December 7, 2007

Episode Three - Italian Post Cards

I’ve decided that Thanksgiving and Christmas should not be so close together. There is simply not enough time to appreciate one heartfelt holiday before the next one comes along. Certainly, the two holidays should not come so hot on the heels of summer vacation. And how is it that summer starts only days after Easter? If that sounds like the voice of an aging woman who can no longer keep up with the pace of time that rushes by at horrific speed, then so be it. Years should be longer with bigger chunks of time between the special days to allow for reflection or at least a deep breath. With the faint smell of left-over Thanksgiving turkey still hanging in the refrigerator and the clipped recipes for Christmas goodies gathering on the kitchen counter, I am finally ready to share some thoughts and photos from the Italian vacation.

Our first stop was Florence. In five days, I saw more art there than I had seen in a lifetime. What a joy it was! The art is everywhere you turn. Churches are filled with it; gardens often feature more sculpture than flowers; window displays seemingly concentrate more on artistic technique than material content; and market stalls are filled with a combination of fruits, vegetables, flowers, meat, cheese and bread that more closely resembles still-life paintings than dinner ingredients. The entire city is a feast for the eyes!

Rural Italy is an art appreciation class dedicated to the wonder of harmony. Leaving the warm pine dotted beach of the west coast and around a curve, a working farm crowds out to the edge of the road; around the next curve a stately home is tucked deep in a secret valley. Up a hill and around yet another curve, layer after layer of hills covered with neatly tended grapevines stretches to the horizon. Along the way, we stopped at several of the hill towns: Montalcino, Montepulciano, Pienza, Siena, Chianti, Radda, and Greve. Each one is unique in its own way, each a vital part of the pattern. Further up the road, the gentle roll of hills covered in an autumn pastoral quilt falls away. Suddenly, this isn’t a hill, it’s a mountain and it’s knee-deep in snow. The entire scene rolls out as one post card perfect view after another. On the east coast, there are no pine trees. The day we visited Fano, the beach was a study in gray splashed with the brightly colored silk of surf kites.

Rome was a highly compressed education, delivered with an exhausting intensity. Our mantra for the entire Italian experience was, “This is only a three week trip. We cannot see it all. This is only a preview trip. There will be other opportunities to see the country in more depth.” That worked fairly well until we got to Rome. All our big talk about relaxing and seeing only the highlights was forgotten. We were caught up in the metro station crowds, infected with the desire to see it all. I dare say we packed as much into our three days in Rome as possible.
Unfortunately, there was a bit of camera trouble along the way and our last two days in Rome are unrecorded except in our memories. As for the rest, here are the best of my humble photos. I hope they relate the sense of fun we had as well as the beauty of the country.

Until next time!